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Capital Reasons To Give


Lynda Keever

Generosity is on the upswing across the state and country. Contributions to colleges and universities nationwide grew by about 5% last year, reflecting an upward trend over the last decade and the relatively good economy.

A large percentage of school funding comes from alumni. According to the Council for Aid to Education's annual survey, nearly half of the $25.6 billion raised nationally in 2005 came directly from individuals, with alumni accounting for 28%. Gifts from foundations accounted for 27%; corporate giving, 17%.

I can personally vouch for the generosity of many of our state's grads. When I took over as chair of the Florida State University Foundation in January 2004, the foundation was already two years into the FSU CONNECT Campaign --the largest fund raising effort in my alma mater's history. It was a great thrill that we surpassed the $600 million goal by $30 million when I completed my term last December.

If you were one of the 71,800 donors to the FSU campaign, you can rest assured that your contribution is being put to good use. The $630 million pays for 511 new scholarships, 22 new eminent scholar chairs, 61 new professorships and supports or creates 400 academic support programs. Additional funds will be used for facilities, research, libraries, public services and athletics.

While normal fund-raising efforts also seek gifts to support students, faculty and physical facilities, capital campaigns are important because they allow fund raising to focus on specific, high priority goals.

The University of Florida is preparing for its third comprehensive capital campaign to raise $1.2 billion by 2012 -- the most ambitious goal ever at a - Florida university. And the University of Central Florida is aiming for the $250-million mark with its "Central to Our Future" campaign, a milestone in fund raising for the young university.

Of course you don't have to be running a capital campaign to attract sizable donations. Last May, University of South Florida President Judy Genshaft announced the single largest donation in USF's history -- a gift worth $34.5 million, including a state match, from Drs. Kiran C. and Pallavi Patel.

Private fund raising is a high priority at four-year universities and also at our 28 community colleges, although on a smaller scale. Florida's community college leaders have long known that in order to excel, private fund raising from individuals is necessary.

Manatee Community College (MCC) President Sarah Pappas puts it this way: "Private fund raising gives us the edge between adequate or excellent."

People give for many reasons, and their motivations are as varied as the colleges and programs their gifts support. The $3,000 I contributed to MCC, with a 3-to-1 match, will help 40 students prepare for their college experience through the school's innovative Summer Bridge program.

Of course you don't have to be alumni to make a meaningful contribution. And although corporate donations represent a smaller share of giving (17% in 2005) many companies support colleges and universities in ways that were not counted in the survey, including corporate sponsorships, partnerships and clinical trials, for example.

I want to thank all of you who give to any of Florida's public and private colleges. Whatever your reason for giving, it's clear that contributing to Florida schools is a capital idea, and I invite you make this smart investment in Florida's future.